*This post was originally published on 9/02/2014. It has been edited and republished on 5/25/2017.
Have you ever read a diary entry you wrote a long time ago and wanted to rip out the page?
That’s what happened to my Week 5 Nail School Journal post.
It’s been shredded into little pieces… deleted.
The post was about how unhappy I was working in windowless offices, in jobs that I didn’t care for, and how I finally decided to hand in my resignation at the 9 to 5 job I was working at.
Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t regret making that decision.
However, I realize that I’d failed to mention all the important steps I’d taken before taking the leap into my new career, and that’s what I want to share with you in this post instead.
I know that a lot of you have landed on this page because you’re considering pursuing nails as a career and want to know how to get started.
You’re in the right place!
I went from going back to school when I was 27 years old and starting at the very bottom of the beauty industry (getting paid minimum wage), to becoming a manager at an established salon in Vancouver and now… I’m a salon owner!
Here are my top 5 tips on how to launch your dream nail career:
Before you do anything else, head over to Craigslist.org.
Find the job postings section in your city and search for ‘nail technician’.
What do you see?
Are there lots of postings looking for nail techs? Are there nail tables or spaces available for rent?
If your search results look something like the above, that’s a good sign! It’s an indication that there’s a demand for nail techs and nail services in your city or area.
Don’t see much? Unless you’re willing to commute or move to an area that has more opportunities, you may have difficulties finding clients. It might be time to rethink your career choice.
Figure out the Legal Stuff
It depends where you live.
In Vancouver, it’s a bit confusing.
But don’t worry, I’ve gotten it figured out for you.
Some salons are happy to hire and train employees without any nail experience, while others will ask for a proof of education or experience.
When you finish a nail technician course in Vancouver, you receive a nail technician diploma.
If you decided to open a nail salon, the City of Vancouver will ask to see proof of education (your diploma) and some nail and beauty suppliers will also ask for it before selling professional products to you.
Nail technician certification is available here, but it’s not required by law. Currently the certification program in British Columbia is regulated by the Beauty Council of Western Canada, a non-profit, voluntary run association.
If you want to become a successful nail technician in Vancouver, I would highly recommend going to a reputable nail school to obtain a nail technician diploma. Certification is optional at this moment (2017).
Which leads us to the next step:
Find the Best School (For You)
Before searching for a nail school, figure out exactly what you’re looking for:
What skills do you want to learn?
For me, I knew that I wanted to learn everything about nails. More specifically, I wanted to know how to do manicures and pedicures on natural nails, as well as being able to perform artificial nail services including acrylic and gel extensions.
This is important to know because while some nail programs focus only on nails, others will include additional skills such as facials, massage and waxing.
What’s your schedule like?
If you have a busy schedule or can’t afford to quit your day job, there are options out there for you!
I was working full-time and tutoring math every Saturday, so I thought it would be impossible to find a nail program that would fit into my schedule. However, I was lucky to find a part-time diploma nail tech course that worked: Sundays (10 am – 6 pm) and Tuesday evenings (6 pm – 10 pm).
Also, figure out when you want to start your program. Can you start tomorrow, next month or next year?
How far can you travel?
I was lucky that my school was only a 15 minute drive from my house, and 15 minute transit from work. I had classmates that commuted over an hour from Coquitlam, Langley and Surrey for nail school!
On several occasions they were late or had to miss the entire class because of bad road conditions in the winter or traffic accidents. Not only did they lose marks, they also fell behind in class.
If you have to travel far for nail school, make sure you find a reliable way to get there!
Now that you have a better idea of what you’re looking for, it’ll be much easier to narrow your search to the top two or three schools.
Call each of your top choices to book an appointment to tour the facilities and meet with someone who can tell you more about the program and answer your questions.
This step is essential because what you see on paper or online might be very different in reality.
One of my top choices looked so good on paper. They had great reviews, some of their students became very successful nail techs and had won awards, but I was very unimpressed when I toured the school.
The classroom was a small, dimly lit room, curtained off in a corner, and the school director couldn’t even tell me when the next class was starting nor the class schedule.
You’re investing in yourself. Make sure you choose the very best!
Work Out the Financials
I’ll be honest, nail school is not cheap.
I paid just under $5000 CAD (in 2014) for a part-time, 6 months program.
Besides figuring out how I was going to pay for my tuition (from my savings), I had to figure out if I needed to keep my full-time job, and how much I should save up for when I enter the nail industry.
Did you know what the average salary of nail technicians is? It can vary widely depending on how many clients you have and how generously they tip.
Keep in mind that junior nail techs usually start at minimum wage.
Some institutions do offer grants, scholarships or financial aid (student loans). If that’s something you’re worrying about, it’ll be a good idea to contact the schools directly to inquire.
Work for Someone Else
Working from home was something I’d always dreamed about. I imagined rolling out of bed and into my home studio, not having to pay rent and saving money on gas.
However, as I researched further into this, I realized that it wasn’t the best option for me.
According to the City of Vancouver, the definition of a home-based business is:
“A business whose office is located in the owner’s home. The primary use of the building is residential, with its secondary use as a home office… No clients are permitted to attend the premises at any time.”
That means home-based nail salons in Vancouver are operating without a business license, aren’t checked regularly by a government regulated health inspector and don’t have insurance (it’d be impossible to apply for it without a business license).
My plan B was to kick start my career by renting a nail table at a popular hair salon.
The salon belonged to my friend’s mom, and she charged me $300 per month. It included a nail table and chair, pedicure stations and use of their washer and dryer.
It was a great deal.
But I failed miserably…
Coming out of nail school, I felt very confident to start working on my own, but in reality I had barely practiced the skills I’d learned in nail school, limited experience with clients that weren’t my family, friends or classmates, and no knowledge of how a salon operated.
There’s really no surprise that it didn’t work out for me.
Ok, plan C.
Remember my first tip? If you skipped it, click here.
Craigslist is a great way to start your search. It’s a quick and easy way to see who’s hiring and how many opportunities are out there.
I wanted to start my career in an established and popular salon so I went on Google and searched ‘best Vancouver nail salon’.
I clicked on every single link that appeared on the first page of the search results until I found what I was looking for: “nail tech wanted – email us your resume!”
I quickly worked on putting my job application together: revised resume, cover letter and a link to my portfolio (Instagram). Always double check the application instructions. If the salon wants your resume emailed, do that; calling isn’t going to help and walking in could disturb services with clients.
A day later after my job application was sent, I received a phone call to schedule an interview!
I’ve been to plenty of interviews for office jobs before, but had no idea what to expect this time.
I wore a simple all black outfit and pulled my hair back into a sleek ponytail because that was our uniform in nail school, and we were taught that it looked professional.
The interview was pretty standard until the owner of the salon asked “can you do a demo on me?”
I was shaking.
She asked me to do a gel polish removal and application on her. I’ve done this plenty of times on myself before (unprofessionally) and once on my classmate when we had a quick gel polish module in nail school.
Luckily, my interviewer saw potential in me and gave me a chance. She even gave me some tips on how to improve my gel polish skills that day.
Oh, and she told me that I was hired 🙂
I loved working at that salon. I was mentored by the salon owner, became friends with my coworkers and gained a lot of regular clients. Most importantly, I had a chance to perfect my skills, learn how to operate a salon smoothly (I eventually became the manager) and gain confidence as a nail tech.
I worked there for over 2 years before opening my own salon.
I hope this post has answered some of your questions or helped you with starting off your dream nail career.
Have a questions for me? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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As a kid, I discovered the world of Japanese nail art through a magazine and since then, I haven't been able to stop thinking about anything related to nails! After following a more traditional educational path and earning my Bachelor's of Science in Food and Nutrition, I decided it was time to pursue my childhood passion. In 2015, I earned my diploma from Blanche Macdonald’s Nail Technology Program. After that, I got certified with YUMI Lashes and opened Sunday Beauty Boutique in 2017. These days, I'm focused on providing a 'no rush' experience to a select clientele, teaching as a nail instructor at Blanche Macdonald, as well as providing resources on beauty related topics to clients and estheticians on my blog.